|SAYIN' IT WITH LOVE by Steve Camp (1978)|
Myrrh - MSB-6604
Steven J. Camp was born in April of 1955 in Wheaton, Illinois. Unlike many of the California Jesus People who came to the Lord after years of experimenting with drugs and sex, Camp was blessed with a strong Christian heritage (his grandmother, Mabel Johnson Camp was a hymn writer). Brought up by Christian parents, Camp professed faith in Christ at a very early age and never rebelled or strayed from the Church.
He reportedly started a band while in middle school, and sang with the Campus Life Singers as a highschooler.
Camp majored in Music Composition and Theory as well as Business Law/Music during his college years, but it was his friendship with Christian Rock's "founding father" that really gave him the boost he needed to become involved in CCM during its formative stages. Inspired by the music coming out of the Jesus Movement, Camp contacted Larry Norman and the two struck up a friendship.
"I have known Larry since October 1972," Steve wrote on his blog upon the occasion of Larry Norman's passing. "We met the night he performed a concert at my home church; it was the same night I was baptized. It was through him and his encouragement that the Lord called me into music ministry. Larry was, in those early years, my mentor. We spent many days together penning songs, doing concerts, and enjoying each other’s fellowship, recording and ministering for the Lord and telling others about Jesus. Larry had me live with him and his wife Pam for a few months to disciple me and teach me the craft of songwriting. I will always treasure those beginning years in ministry with him."
One can't help but wonder why Camp was not one of the stable of artists who recorded for Norman's Solid Rock Records. Probably good that he wasn't; that association didn't end well for the other artists involved.
Camp actually released a single in 1975 for mainstream outlet Mums/CBS. But after contributing to Christian albums by the likes of Petra (Come and Join Us) and Scott Wesley Brown (I'm Not Religious, I Just Love the Lord), he decided to sign a record deal with Myrrh Records.
According to Billboard Magazine, Camp was signed on the basis of an unsolicited, completed master that was released virtually unchanged in 1978 - Sayin' It With Love.
Reviewer Ken Scott said that Camp sounded at times like Larry Norman, at other times like Jackson Browne. Curt McLey of the Phantom Tollbooth said that "Camp seemed relaxed, open, and innovative" on his debut album.
Needless to say, the death of Steve's father in 1972 had a profound impact on him. It's often been speculated that the tragedy also fueled this album, inspiring several songs on the record. McLey wrote that the songs on Sayin' It With Love were "musical therapy for Steve Camp, reflective of thoughts and feelings emanating from the death of his father."
The title track is an up-tempo rocker that opens the album. Some stellar electric guitar work is heard here, including a dual "harmony guitar" lead break about two-thirds of the way in. There's a bit of irony in the song's title (and the album's title). Some would say that Camp later became known primarily for operating in judgment, not love. Others would argue that he simply spoke the truth in love, and let the proverbial chips fall where they may. The song's third verse hinted at the confrontational lyrical direction that Steve would become known for, and also hinted at the title of a future album:
Your soul was once on fire but now it's on iceIf you think the Lord has left you, then you better think twice
And the dreams that drove your broken heart don't seem to suffice
And the dreams that drove your broken heart don't seem to suffice
He's been always, always, always
Sayin' it with love
The song fades out with somebody pounding away at the acoustic piano as Steve and his very-70s female backup singers trade vocal lines.
Me, a piano-based pop ballad written by Paul Bogush, Jr., is up next. Steve turns in a very earnest vocal on this song that sounds like it could've been a huge Barry Manilow hit in the mid 70s. It boasts a killer lead guitar solo.
Next is one of the record's true highlights. If I Were a Singer was penned by Camp and Larry Norman. Camp's youthful-sounding voice actually reminds one of Norman on this track (I also had to check the credits to make sure that Larry wasn't singing a harmony part on the chorus). The song has a haunting musical sensibility, never overreaching. Pat Leonard turned in excellent performances on a Fender Rhodes electric piano (with just the right amount of tremolo) and a Moog synthesizer during the instrumental break at the end of the song. But the star of the show here is the lyrics. The imagery presented is vintage Norman. It's wonderful:
If I were a planet or better yet a starI would try to show the universe who You are
I would take my place among some constellation
I'd be visible from every observation
I'd be a sign among the heavens to each nation
And overwhelm the wise men with the wonder of creation
These are troubled daysI want to live my life in a special way
These are troubled days
I want to live my life for You and point the way
If I were the blue sky, my winds would blow for YouI would storm upon the night to show Your power
I would rage upon this earth with heavy showers
Hurricane upon all men to make them cower
Make them watch me 'til that unexpected hour
When You come again from Heaven's lofty tower
If I were a singer, I'd sing my song for YouAnd my pen would point out all the things You're made of
And the only thing that I could sing would be love.
I would sing 'til the faithless ones received it
Until the children of Your wayward church believed it
I would sing it to the governments and its leaders
To all of the writers who have misled all the readers
I would sing it though they jailed me and they killed me
Let them empty me of life, for You have filled me
Jesus, You have filled me
The song clocks in at over 5 minutes...and you wish it could go on even longer.
Gather in His Name really suffers from its placement in the track order. If I Were a Singer was a very tough act to follow. And this perky praise song with a Caribbean island feel just didn't get it done. It would've been right at home on a Carman album in the 80s...so in that respect, maybe it was ahead of its time? 'Gather' did feature a key change with a very high degree of difficulty, and Steve nailed it! But at the end of the day, this one felt like a novelty song that did not hold up well to repeat listening.
Next up was a song that my brothers and I covered many, many times. The ballad Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled reminded us of Jesus' words:
Let not your hearts be troubled
You believe in God
Believe in Me, too
The road to Heaven is very narrow
And the ones who find it
They shall be called the few
The song was full of Scripture...
All we like sheep have gone astrayEach has departed to his own way
It was a sobering reminder that would probably never get recorded today...
We must all meet God some dayAre you prepared or are you just plain scared
There's no escape for those who are lostSo if you're wise, you'll reach out for the cross
So many see but pretend they do not hearTheir only home is the dust to which they'll disappear
Come to think of it, we also covered God Loves You back in the day. It was a short, stripped-down, evangelistic tune that closed out Side One with Steve singing over a simple acoustic piano.
Sayin’ It With Love was released in May of ’78. It was recorded at Chicago Recording Company and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. Steve Camp himself was listed as producer and arranger; Paul Bogush, Jr. offered production assistance. The engineers were Alan Kubica and Hank Newberger, backed up by Gary Elghammer and Tom Hansen. The album was mixed by Kubica. Jim Whitmer took the cover photograph, while Martin Donald was in charge of the graphic design of the album cover.
The second side opens with a funky groove called Good News (not to be confused with the iconic Randy Stonehill song of the same name). This one tells the story of the Gospels and the life and ministry of Christ in 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Written by David MacDougall, it foreshadowed the disco-influenced funk of Steve's sophomore release, Start Believin'. Steve Eisen's alto saxophone solo is impressive.
Song For Mom was another high-water mark for Sayin' It With Love. Thoughtful lyrics...personal...full of honesty and sincerity. Camp mentions the loss of his father and pays tribute to his mother in a way that is memorable and touching.
"My Mom is one of the greatest women and Christians you could ever be privileged to get to know,” Steve wrote in a blog post in 2009. “She is forthright, loving, generous, selfless, constantly studying the Word, a straight-shooter, a discipler of people, an available servant of the Lord, a great listener, upbeat, keeps her eye on eternity, always has the coffee brewing in case you're in the neighborhood, and the heart of the home. She is a living example of Proverbs 31. How I praise the Lord for a Mom that instilled early in my life a love for the truth, a love for the Savior, and a passion to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to others."
The gorgeous sound of a Fender Rhodes electric piano (a sound that I miss oh so much) begins the next song, Lord Make Me Humble. It's a heartfelt prayer set to music:
Lord, make me humble when it seems I'm too proudLord, make me silent when You know I'm too loud
Lord, give me patience in everything I do
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You
Make me forgiving when people are unkindLet me live Your life instead of living mine
Lord give me wisdom to know which things are true
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You
Lord, be my pilot I don't want to fly aloneLord, be the power to roll away my stone
Lord, give me courage to do what I must do
'Cause Lord, I want to be just like You
Steve's singing is soothing and unpretentious on this track as well as many others on the album. His vocal delivery was especially effective on the quieter ballads. Speaking of which...
Steve Camp's friendship with Larry Norman again comes to the fore on the medley of Diamonds and Strong Love, Strange Peace. These are two absolutely classic Norman songs and Steve Camp does them proud. The first verse of Strong Love, Strange Peace takes a few swipes at dissatisfied concertgoers:
Backstage I cross the middle groundCurtains up, house lights down
I sing love songs and pass myself around
But afterwards some people say
They thought I put them down
They feel so bad, it doesn't matter what I say
I hope tomorrow they have a better day
They seem so trapped, they need release
They need Your strong love and strange peace
Verse two takes a few shots at the media (Larry never was a big fan):
Reporters question me: is this a new direction for the youngHow lamb-like their faces, how snake-like their tongues
They quote me perfectly then rewrite every word I speak
And go away convinced we are some new kind of freak
I feel so good it doesn't matter what I say
I hope tomorrow they have a better day
We're all so trapped, we need release
We need your strong love and strange peace
For some reason, Strong Love, Strange Peace crossfades seamlessly into Tell Everybody. This exhortation to evangelism concludes the album but doesn't seem to fit with the 2 songs that precede it. The female backup vocal parts are a little hokey, and the song seems to fade out before it's finished.
Overall, Sayin' It With Love served as a fitting introduction to a man whose talents and convictions would often take center stage in the CCM world over the next three decades.
Steve Camp enjoyed an awful lot of personal success and productive ministry during the 80s and beyond, selling more than a million albums and writing (or co-writing) 21 number one singles and 50 top ten songs. His song Run to the Battle was #1 for 16 weeks in 1981. Songs like He Is All You Need, Whatever You Ask, and Do You Feel Their Pain were also monster radio hits.
Steve was also heavily influenced by his friend Keith Green. Camp has said that he admired Green's "zeal for the Lord" and "no compromise stance."
"I think Keith showed me that Christian music ought to be biblically based, exciting, enjoyable and fun to listen to, but never compromising or watering down the truth to accomplish that," Steve said in an interview with Jan Willem Vink of Cross Rhythms. "No hidden lyrics, no double meanings, no crossover goals here. Keith was not trying to crossover into the secular market just to make a name for himself. He was trying to boldly proclaim the Cross and he knew the Cross carried with it an offence. And so, yeah, I praise the Lord for Keith."
After Green’s untimely death in 1982, the urgency and prophetic edge in Camp’s music became much more pronounced. Some would say that Steve Camp was well on his way to becoming the conscience of the Christian Music industry.
Camp gravitated to a punchier, edgy, pop-rock sound and toured with friends Rick Cua and Rob Frazier. Albums recorded during this period, particularly Fire and Ice and Shake Me to Wake Me, would establish Camp as a bonafide rock artist.
He organized The CAUSE (Christian Artists United to Save the Earth) and raised money and awareness for famine victims in Ethiopia. The song Do Something Now was penned by a truly odd couple - the theologically conservative Steve Camp and the decidedly liberal Phil Madeira; the money it raised went to Compassion International.
Camp has also admirably backed up his pro-life beliefs by performing benefit concerts and speaking for crisis pregnancy centers around the country.
Camp got a little overzealous with his language in a 1986 interview with CCM Magazine...and they printed it:
"Some guy will just say, ‘I’m only a Christian entertainer.’ Bull----! These guys have a responsibility to talk to these kids as if they were speaking the very words of God themselves in their theology."
Of course, few paid attention to the point Camp was trying to make, focusing instead on the expletive. Camp subsequently apologized to those who were offended.
Over time, Steve Camp developed a reputation as an outspoken critic of the CCM industry, alienating many in the process. He has attacked everything from false doctrine to materialism to being unequally yoked to secular companies. A few examples:
"We'll do anything to get more exposure, won't we? We'll even leave the name of Jesus out of the songs and not even call ourselves Christians in the interest of gaining just a little more media attention."
"Jesus said to his own disciples, 'The world will hate you; you will be persecuted for my sake.' We have blurred that line today because we want to be acceptable to a generation. I think it's Tozer that said, 'We are spending too much time entertaining the goats and not feeding the sheep.'"
"I despise the Dove Awards. Like Tony Campolo said a few years ago at the GMA, 'You're not a shining image of Christ, you're just a poor image of the Grammy!' We pat ourselves on the back and say, 'Here, take this award.' Plus it's manipulated by the record companies. It's the lust of the eye, the pride of life and the lust of the flesh, wrapped up in one single award. For Christians to say, 'That's why we sing, thank you Jesus for this stupid award...' I think it's a slap in the face to a Holy God. I can't stand it."
On Reformation Day 1998, he sent out the 107 THESES: A Call to Reformation for the Contemporary Christian Music Industry. It was a controversial document that called for all in the CCM industry to return to the authority of Scripture, to spiritual accountability, and to reject being unequally yoked with an unbelieving world. Many appreciated his passion and were also concerned about the direction of CCM. Others accused him of being judgmental and closed minded. One reviewer said that the 107 Theses was “little more than a laundry list of jeers and complaints about the industry.”
One thing that sparked the document was the fact that almost all of Christian music today is owned by three large, secular corporations. “Think of it, all of God’s music owned by the world; who would have thought money would have such hold over ministry?” asks Camp.
In 2002, Steve kicked it up a notch by penning an “open letter to the Church” in response to the Come Together & Worship Tour by Third Day and Michael W. Smith, sponsored by Chevrolet. He went into great detail outlining his concerns regarding the dangers of partnering with unbelievers in the work of the ministry, and charging people money to worship God. He also wrote in the letter about “a pervasive growing attitude of unteachableness, unaccountability, and a lack of submissiveness to the Word of God and the authority of the local church” within the CCM industry.
"They called it 'Come Together and Worship.' I don't know how much worship actually occurred," Camp said in an interview with the Phantom Tollbooth in 2003. "Worship is more than just people raising their hands, closing their eyes and singing along. True biblical worship must instruct people to the Lord, and it's something we are instructed to give to Him, in response to His character and His truth. That doesn't happen with Chevrolet footing the bill. When is Planned Parenthood sponsoring the next worship concert? When is Budweiser getting on board? If it doesn't matter where the money is coming from, then take it from all these people."
While some applauded his concern and his willingness to stick his neck out for his deeply held beliefs, many criticized Camp for overreaching, for being too harsh.
He has certainly been no stranger to controversy. Some people just never could seem to get comfortable with Steve telling them to light their candle on the front porch of hell and let it burn bright in the face of the devil. But I, like many others, appreciate his passion, conviction, and uncompromised stance. Above all, I appreciate his love for and devotion to the Word of God. Yes, at times his songs were “preachy.” But many of his songs also spoke beautifully of God’s love and grace. He never pointed a finger without acknowledging shortcomings in his own life and ministry and that he also was in need of God’s grace. For every dozen critics who complained about his "preachy" tone, there were probably thousands of listeners who were spurred on toward repentance and revival because of songs like Stranger to Holiness, Shake Me to Wake Me and Living in Laodicea. I mean, c'mon...would a self-righteous modern day pharisee reach out to AIDS patients in the 1980s, at the height of the fear and hysteria? Would an angry, judgmental man write a song encouraging us to get close enough to them to "taste the salt in their tears" and "love them back to life again?"
Over the years, Camp obtained an immense working knowledge of Scripture and theology, reading an average of 3-4 books a week, studying the Greek language, and gathering an expansive personal library of historical and theological works. Today, he is a pastor in Florida and is known as a prolific Reformed Theology blogger. And when I say prolific, I mean prolific…as in “profusely productive and fruitful.”
|Steve Camp today|
He’s a Calvinist, a Cessationist, a satirist, a biblical reformer, and an evangelical provocateur. Steve Camp ain’t messin’ around. You may not agree with him on every doctrinal point – I don’t – but you certainly can’t accuse him of approaching his work and ministry in a casual manner. Lest you think he’s all work and no play, on his blog profile Steve listed golf, watersports and being a Dad to his five kids as some of his favorite interests.
Of course, he also included ministry and Systematic Theology on that list.
On Sayin’ It With Love, Steve Camp sang...If I were a singer, I’d sing my song for You. Well, he was and he did. His songs and his writings continue to serve as instruction and inspiration for millions of believers today around the globe.
Steve Camp. Singer. Songwriter. Pastor. Evangelist.
A respected voice…and still exhorting after all these years.
Fun Fact: Steve Camp's favorite movies? Braveheart, The Patriot, Seabiscuit, What About Bob, Gladiator, The Godfather Series, Hoosiers